The Pagan Blog Project is a lose knit group of over 100 bloggers that has agreed to post every Friday on a Pagan topic. Each week the posts all begin with a topic with a given letter of the alphabet. This week is the second A post. Next Friday will be "B is for Body".
New pagans and aspiring occultists get offered a lot of advice mostly because they ask for it. The upside is that everyone means well. The downside it is that it is all contradictory. So how is a person supposed to figure out what to do? Read a book? Aside from the facts conveyed, isn't that advice in a different form? Every book is trying to lead you somewhere. How do you know when to follow and when to run?
Here are some educated guesses born of experience.
When you run into someone that you think knows more than you, don't ask questions about their craft or tradition. Ask about the person. Learn about life experiences, magickal and mundane. Learn about the person's stated code of ethics. Keep in mind, few actually live by these all the time but what a person says about ethics is at least what s/he aspires to be.
Do other people respect this person? This is different than being drawn to the person.
Do other people tell you this person knows their stuff? Do people say complimentary things about the work they do within their tradition? How do they handle the person that does not like them? Would you introduce this person to people you respect and admire?
How many people claim this person screwed them over personally? That doesn't mean the speaker simply didn't match the tradition and washed out. It means something personal. If you know more than one person that is very careful to keep an arms length from your prospective adviser, stop and look a lot more closely.
Does what he says ring true? This means that you feel the person is not only being honest and sharing his knowledge but does it hit you in the gut as true for you too? If the first is true and and not the second, you've found a friend but not someone to follow spiritually.
The best advice to follow is your own. Listen to your voice that says jump in or stay away.